According to the CDC, more than 29 million American adults suffer from diabetes. Among a range of predisposed health conditions, diabetics are twice as likely to develop gum disease, and are at an alarmingly higher risk of developing tooth decay and tooth loss.
How diabetes influences oral health
Two main factors cause tremendous oral health impacts on diabetic mouths: blood glucose levels and reduced ability to fight infection.
Uncontrolled diabetes results in high glucose levels in the saliva, from which cavity-causing oral bacteria thrive. Elevated blood sugar levels fuel bacteria that produce acid that wears at tooth enamel.
Reduced ability to fight infection and increased levels of inflammation in the body, caused by diabetes, affect the soft tissues of the mouth, including the gums. As a result, diabetics with inadequate blood sugar control develop periodontal disease more frequently and severely, and lose more teeth than non-diabetics.
Diabetes also contributes to fungal infections in the mouth. Thrush, oral candidiasis, appears most frequently in those with diabetes, causing oral legions, ulcers, a swollen or burning tongue, and soreness in the mouth. The condition is compounded by additional factors such as smoking, high blood glucose levels and frequent consumption of antibiotics.
How to prevent dental problems associated with diabetes
- Monitor signs of gum disease which include: red, swollen and tender gums; bleeding gums; receding gum line; persistent bad breath; bad taste in the mouth, pus between the teeth and gums; shifting teeth or change in how teeth fit together when you bite; change in how partial dentures fit.
- Keep up with your daily oral health routine, including twice daily brushing, flossing and rinsing.
- Visit your dentist every six months for regular x-ray, exam and cleanings, or immediately if you notice signs of gum disease. This is a time to screen for potential issues, as well as talk to your dentist about how to control the effects of diabetes.
- Monitor and control your blood sugar. A controlled blood sugar helps regulate the sugar in the mouth, thereby reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum infections.
- Stay hydrated. Saliva is important, to rinse the teeth of harmful bacteria. Diabetes can impair the salivary functions of the mouth allowing bacteria to grow uncontrolled in the mouth for a longer period.
In conclusion, numerous life-threatening diseases including heart disease, stroke and kidney disease are influenced by poor oral health. Good oral health is integral for maintaining good health overall. Your dentist can be a life line in detecting and controlling fatal diseases and their outcomes, before it’s too late.